Tom Mauldin says he can pitch his age.
He is 68 years old and can still throw a softball 68 mph.
“That’s about the equivalent of a 93-mile-per-hour baseball,” Mauldin says.
That comes in handy when Mauldin — the new softball coach at Bend High — throws batting practice to his players.
Mauldin seemingly lives and breathes softball. He played fast-pitch softball semiprofessionally for many years — sometimes more than 200 games per year. In addition to coaching the Lava Bears, Mauldin is the assistant director for Fastpitch Northwest and a private pitching/hitting coach. He is also national softball and volleyball editor for CBS-owned MaxPreps.
Mauldin coached the Sisters High School softball team from 2007 to 2010, and Redmond High in 2013 and 2014. Before taking the Bend job, he was an assistant coach for Walla Walla (Washington) Community College and College of Idaho, and he remains a pitching consultant with colleges around the Northwest.
Mauldin says he considered retiring from coaching before players and parents encouraged him to take the Bend High position.
“This will be my last coaching job, so I’m looking forward to it more than any other year that I’ve coached,” Mauldin says.
So far, he has led the Bears — who have eight returning seniors — to a 4-2 record.
“I challenged them to outhustle everybody,” Mauldin says. “We don’t have 10 (NCAA Division I-caliber) kids, but we can outhustle people. That is something we can control. Our girls are hustling. We’ve amped up the intensity and the number of reps. They’re responding really well.”
Diamond sports runs in Mauldin’s blood. According to Mauldin, his father, Mason “Mule” Mauldin, played football and baseball at Clemson University in South Carolina and was a journeyman minor league player who had brief stints with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Washington Senators and Chicago Cubs before going on to a career in the Air Force.
“I wasn’t as good as my dad (at baseball),” Mauldin says. “But I fell in love with fast-pitch softball at a young age. I played for a long time. I got to play with some great players who really inspired me. I don’t think I was trying to live in my father’s footsteps. I just fell in love with the game of softball. Here it is 50 years later and I’m still doing it.”
Mauldin grew up in South Carolina and started his journalism career as a sports writer in California for the Bay Area’s Fairfield Daily Republic and Vacaville Reporter. He covered the Oakland A’s when they won three straight World Series (1972-74) and he also covered the Joe Montana-led San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s.
Mauldin and his wife, Cat, eventually became newspaper owners on the Oregon Coast, running the Cannon Beach Gazette and the North Coast Citizen in Manzanita. The Gazette was honored by the National Newspaper Association six times as America’s best small newspaper when the Mauldins were publishers.
The Mauldins — who have five children and 11 grandchildren — sold their newspapers 12 years ago and moved to Sisters. In 2011 they moved to Redmond, where they remain.
While coaching high school and college softball, Mauldin has maintained his roles as a private pitching coach and an editor for MaxPreps.
He says he has coached 50 all-state pitchers privately.
“As a private pitching coach, I get to travel a lot,” Mauldin says. “People fly me to Hawaii for pitching clinics. How do you say no?”
He also handles the national high school softball rankings for MaxPreps.
“I rank who’s in the top 100,” he says. “One is a computer poll and the other one is mine.”
While Bend High, which finished 9-16 last season, is not in those national rankings, Mauldin says he has seen improvement in the little amount of practice time the team has had. The Bears did not have their first full outdoor practice until March 21 due to lingering snow on the fields.
“We’re a week behind, but the girls are really responding,” Mauldin says. “I think by the time we start league we’ll be a pretty good softball team. We want to take care of league play and we want to make the playoffs.”
Taking batting practice against a pitcher like Mauldin will certainly help.